USA Road Trip - 7 things I hate about the USA
One thing that really annoys me is when someone comes to my country on a visit and then tell me how we should run the country. After more than 2 months on the road I am afraid I cannot help myself!
Here goes with apologies to my USA friends –I hope I still have some after this:
1. Driving on the city highways in every big town where everyone seems to know exactly where they are going (because they do) and I don’t (because I usually don’t have a clue). Give me small town USA were if someone is waving it is probably a friendly greeting! My worst nightmare is a sign on a full, four lane, 60 miles an hour highway, saying: “exit to Waterfront 400 feet to the left”, when I am carefully hugging the right lane which is for “slow moving vehicles”. The next exit is either left or right in 3 miles to who knows where?
2. RV camping – now if you are going to travel the country in a second home with kitchen, bathroom, sitting room and two bedrooms, all with air-conditioning and add a washing machine, dishwasher and dryers, then please don’t call it camping. If you camp you actually have to get out and smell the fresh air and do a campfire and get bitten by the mosquitoes and no-see-ums. What really bugs me, so to speak, is when everyone at a State Park camp ground has settled down in the evening and are peacefully sitting around their camp fires and a huge RV drives in because he could not get into the nearest RV Park or is too “snoep” (cheap) to pay the $38 for full hookup and then after reversing with much effort and shouting from his significant other, starts up his noisy generator to keep everything going that generators do. Gone is the peace and quiet, as Mr. and Mrs. “Comfy Campers” sit back in their lounge chairs to watch TV, while the pre-packed meal is being heated in the microwave.
On at least two occasions this really happened. Audrey had to restrain me from going to Mr. RV and inviting him to come and sit at the campfire while Mrs. RV switches the generator on and off – so that he can realize what he is doing. We avoid RV camps like the plague, in spite of their heated swimming pools, because firstly, we real campers are looked down on as second class citizens by the RV crowd - they simply don’t allow us onto the R.V. “camping” grounds and secondly, who wants their view of the highway and train line blocked by the surrounding “second homes”. Also the smell from the nearby sewerage dump station and the garbage area is quite off-putting. Just wait a moment, I want to pop over to that RV over there and see if they have the latest golf scores!
3. The design of toilets. There must be some USA law concerning the building of toilets which states that they must be open for at least a foot off the floor and six feet above the floor. This gives them a wonderful open room feeling with everyone else washing hands, using the shower etc, able to see at least your feet and pants on the floor and hear everything that is going on with amazing clarity. The other day, as I prepared to sit down, I was amazed to see a small head and two big eyes looking up at me from below. Not sure if it was what he saw or what I said that made him disappear, but disappear he did! The problem with someone who was brought up in a society where a “Private” meant private, is that it becomes difficult to go! You either have to wait until no one is around and then post a notice/guard at the door, or not go at all, with serious consequences on regularity. The toilets were also designed for reasonably small people and so if you cannot find a disabled person’s toilet, which has copious space, it is very difficult getting up without bumping your head on the door.
4. The problem of obesity has only become real to me after my personal trainer on Wii called me “an overweight coach potato” and my weight was judged as obese. In the USA there seem to be many overweight people and some (not a few) very overweight ones. Imagine what my personal trainer would have to say to them?
Supermarkets supply special carts for these unfortunate people to use while they do their shopping and what really amazes me is that often they wear the skimpiest shorts and tops. Every time I go into a supermarket, corner shop, or small town/big town deli, the first thing that greets me from the shelves is a 4 pack of “turnovers”. I don’t know who invented these delicious apple filled pasty type temptations, but whoever it is should be shot at dawn. Trying to persuade Audrey to buy a pack doesn’t often help, even if I argue that I’ll only have one a day for the next 4 days. Turnovers, with a cup of coffee, are what cause the American obesity problem. Perhaps it is just as well that our trip is only six months, else I may be slipping out at night to hike to the nearest shop and then hide the box of turnover under the camping box, but I think the crumbs on my chin will give me away.
5. Tailgating is a traffic offence in the USA and yet I seem to have some overzealous driver sitting on Matilda’s rear bumper for most of the trip, making me extremely nervous and wanting to slam on my brakes. How road rage gets the better of one’s Christian fruits of the Spirit! (i.e. patience! See Gal. 5:22). Some may argue that it is because we are travelling too slowly, and there is some merit in that argument, but even if you are travelling at 55 miles per hour, as the signs legally permit, you seem to be the only one keeping remotely to this speed. The long line of impatient drivers behind you, with either a bored or angry look on their faces, testifies to this.
Audrey says “just ignore them”, but how do you ignore a huge 1000 ton truck with twenty Cedar logs cut from the Forest near Redwood National Park, on a narrow winding Oregon road, when you at the same time are peering through the mist and drizzle for an obscure turnoff to the next State Park! I ask you with tears in my eyes; just give me twenty yards space - that will help with my aching neck muscles and white knuckles and blinding headache. Where is the traffic officer that should be pulling all tailgaters off the road for the mandatory $300 fine that is posted along the road? It was with perverse joy when yesterday we saw a couple of speeding cars being ticketed after they had passed us at high speed on the 70 miles an hour highway 90 between Seattle and Spokane.
6. Automation: - everything is on automatic! Wash your hands and the water goes on and off automatically just so when you dry them. Approach the doors of a shop and they open and close automatically. Use a urinal or toilet and the thing flushes automatically, occasionally with bad timing I may say. Sometimes I would just like to turn on a tap and flush the toilet when I am finished. The other day I approached a drinking fountain and could see no knob to press or handle to turn and so my mind went into automatic mode - there I stood with my mouth open grinning at the fountain in great, but unfulfilled expectation until a little boy (not the one from the toilet) walked by and with a giggle pushed a hidden knob. I ask you with tears in my eyes – what is the world coming to?
7. The weather in the USA is extreme to say the least. We have been very fortunate on this trip and the only problems we have had so far have been 100 degree plus temperatures at the beginning, and then some big thunderstorms. We, however, know the extreme cold weather is coming and will catch us. This country in one of extremes; when it gets hot, it can get very hot! Yesterday on the plains of Washington State we already felt a little of the cold, remembering as we head East that it is September and winter is fast approaching. As we do so, we will be joining the birds (just saw two huge flocks of Canadian Geese honking their way over - wonder who they are honking for?) as they head towards Florida and Texas for the winter. We, like the birds, have enjoyed the summer up north but realize we need to start moving to warmer climes for winter.